Tapeless setting blog images-05Planet Granite is pleased to announce that we want to explore going tapeless with all of our routes and boulder problems in our Sunnyvale location! We’re going to test it out first with a section of bouldering, so keep your eyes peeled in the next few days.  To explain why we’re doing this and how this will work, I sat down with our Director of Routesetting, Bret Johnston.

KP: Hi Bret, this is a pretty big change, particularly for bouldering.  Why do you want to make the switch to going tapeless?

BJ: Hey Kalie, it is a big change, but one that I’m really excited about.  Monochomatic (tapeless) setting in my mind is the only way routesetting should be done these day. It is my goal to turn Planet Granite into the envy of all climbing gyms. I believe that we have some of the most talented setters in the country and I want to be able to give them all of the resources to perform at their potential. I believe that this is a crucial step in that process.

Tapeless setting blog images-02 As for why, there are a bunch of reasons, but to name a few: without tape we are left with a much cleaner look to the walls. The tape often gets beaten up very quickly which makes it harder to differentiate climbs or gives an unappealing look to the wall. The clearest way to mark a hold is the by the color of that hold.

We also create a ton of waste with the tape. In an effort to be a more green company, this is an important step.

The last and most important reason I would like to dive into is quality of product. With the use of tape, it actually takes a much longer amount of time to set a climb in comparison to not using tape – the difference is incredible. I would say it takes me about twice as long to set a cTapeless setting blog images-04limb with tape.  Switching to tapeless will allow us to spend more time forerunning and make sure the standards of quality are even higher for our customers.


KP: Do you see this rolling out in just bouldering or route climbing (lead) areas too?

BJ: Our goal is to do this everywhere.  It is clear that it works in the top rope areas with the colors we have now. However, we are first doing a test run in a Sunnyvale bouldering area to see how it works and gather member feedback.  So please let us know your thoughts! Your feedback is invaluable.

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KP: You mentioned the environmental impact.  How much waste will this actually prevent?

BJ: Well, each roll of duct tape is about 200 feet long and we go through hundreds of rolls each year, so…it’s a lot. A modest estimate would be that we use about 80,000 feet of duct tape each year. Take 26 El Capitans and stack them on top of each other and that’s what it looks like. I would love for the number to be around 1,000 feet per year which is definitely achievable with this new system.


KP: I’m having some trouble visualizing this, will you be able to keep the same density of climbs on the wall with just colored holds? 

Tapeless setting blog images-07BJ: We will be able to keep the same density with the addition of two new colors, white and brown. This will ensure that the climbers at PG have just as much variety while still achieving the tapeless look on the walls.  It might look less dense, but that’s because the tape will be missing!  Plus, if you’ve noticed, we have been testing out setting with monochromatic holds to make sure it would work by setting with matching colored holds and tape at the same time. With the new colors in the system it will be an easy transition.

Plus this means a TON of new holds for the gyms – to prep for this test run, I ordered nearly 3,000 lbs. of holds!


KP: How will I know where the start of a climb is if there isn’t tape to identify it?

BJ: We have come up with a system that no other climbing gyms use to mark the start position. It involves a reusable placard that has minimal opportunity for waste. There will be a colored washer indicating which placard goes with which start hold that will identify the grade and setter for that climb.


KP: What, if any, issues do you see with this system?

BJ: As with any change, there will be an adjustment period, but I’m confident the overall product will be better.  The biggest challenge will be differentiating similar colors – ie orange and pink, or blue and purple.  However, it is the responsibility of myself and the setting team to ensure we’re separating common colors enough so it’s not confusing.


PG Portland Bouldering

Planet Granite Portland and PDX Head Setter Josh Haynes showing off their clean tapeless walls.

KP: Do other facilities use this system and does it work?

BJ: Yes, many climbing gyms already use this system. Most new gyms open this way. A great example of it working really well is the new PG up in Portland. They have been using the monochromatic system since opening and it is working very well.


KP: Is this just going to be in Sunnyvale or are we going to see tapeless in all of the gyms soon?

BJ: My end goal is to have all PG gyms tapeless by the end of the year. We are testing it out in Sunnyvale because it is our busiest gym and we will get the most feedback from that demographic. I appreciate all feedback in regards to routesetting at PG. It helps us improve and our end goal is the same as the members. We want a fun climbing environment with climbs available for every demographic.


KP: Thanks Bret for your time!  I’m excited to see this roll out.

BJ: Thanks Kalie, me too.


The setters will be rolling out tapeless holds this Monday,  February 2nd, in the Learning Center, followed by the Prow and 10 Degree Wall.  Bret will be available Monday-Wednesday in Sunnyvale to talk all things tape with you!  Please let us know your thoughts!